They were the Nantes session’s two leading artists, along with Louise Abbéma for her quick sketch of Sarah Bernhardt.
Mai Trung Thu, aka Mai-Thu (1906-1980), La Lecture (Reading), 1943, signed and dated silk painting, 54 x 45 cm at sight (detail).
A three-day auction in Anne of Brittany’s city resulted in the dispersal of 780 pieces (82% of the lots sold) for a total of €590,000. The bidders were from 22 countries. Two works stood out. The first was La Lecture (Reading), an especially accomplished painting on silk by Mai Trung Thu from 1943, as the date in the lower left-hand corner indicates. Depicting two young women in traditional tunics served as a pretext for a delicate work in blue, grey and beige that fetched €210,800, surging past the upper estimate of €60,000. Fauve painter and printmaker, Louis Valtat’s more rustic Le Pichet de Fleurs (Pitcher of Flowers), c. 1920-1925, sold for €34,720. Characteristic of the Post-Impressionist’s work, this oil on canvas features a dazzling yellow and turquoise palette. The third item, a surprising, wide pastel, Sarah Bernhardt à table (Sarah Bernhardt at a Table, 64 x 91 cm) from 1885, has a more muted tone. It bears the signature of Louise Abbéma, the famous actress’s companion, who chronicled the late 19th-century Paris art scene. The Petit Palais museum in Paris bought this exceptional testimony for €10,168.